The Properties Of God's Decrees Explained

by Thomas Boston

1. They are eternal. God makes no decrees in time, but they were all from eternity. So the decree of election is said to have been "before the foundation of the world," Eph. 1:4, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love," Indeed, whatever he does in time, was decreed by him, seeing it was known to him before time, Acts 15:18, "Known to God from eternity are all His works." And this foreknowledge is founded on the decree. If the divine decrees were not eternal, God would not be most perfect and unchangeable. Weak like man, he would have to change his plans and would be unable to tell every thing that would to come to pass.

2. They are most wise, "according to the counsel of his will." God cannot properly deliberate or take counsel, as men do; for he sees all things together and at once. And thus his decrees are made with perfect judgment, and laid in the depth of wisdom, Rom 11:33, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" So that nothing is determined that could have been better determined.

3. They are most free, according to the counsel of his own will; depending on no other, but all flowing from the mere pleasure of his own will, Rom 11:34, "For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?" Whatsoever he decrees to work outside of himself is from his free choice. So his decrees are all absolute, and there are none of them conditional. He has made no decrees suspended on any condition outside himself. Neither has he decreed any thing because he saw it would come to pass, or as that which would come to pass on such or such conditions; for then they should be no more according to the counsel of his will, but the creature's will.

God's decrees being eternal, they cannot depend upon a condition which is temporal. They are the determinate counsels of God, but a conditional decree determines nothing. Such conditional decrees are inconsistent with the infinite wisdom of God, and are in men only the effects of weakness; and they are inconsistent with the independence of God, making them depend on the creature.

4. They are unchangeable. They are the unalterable laws of heaven. God's decrees are constant; and he by no means alters his purpose, as men do. Psalm 33:11, "The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations." Hence they are compared to mountains of brass, Zech. 6:1. As nothing can escape his first view, so nothing can be added to his knowledge. Hence Balaam said, "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" Num 23:19. The decree of election is irreversible: "The solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," 2 Tim 2:19

5. They are most holy and pure. For as the sun darts its beams upon a dunghill, and yet is no way defiled by it; so God decrees the permission of sin, yet is not the author of sin: 1 John 1:5. "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." James 1:13, "God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone," and verse 17, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."

6. They are effective; that is, whatsoever God decrees, comes to pass infallibly, Isa 46:10 "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." He cannot fall short of what he has determined. Yet the liberty of second causes is not hereby taken away; for the decree of God offers no violence to the creature's will; as appears from the free and unforced actions of Joseph's brethren, Pharaoh, the Jews that crucified Christ, etc. Nor does it take away the contingency of second causes, either in themselves or as to us, as appears by the lot cast into the lap. Nay, they are thereby established, because he hath efficaciously foreordained that such effects shall follow on such causes.